#AfterAuston: Samuel Girard

Yesterday, I talked about a defenseman the Leafs might target in Logan Stanley. Today we’re going to shift to basically the exact opposite player in Samuel Girard.

#AfterAuston today features shifty offensive defenseman Girard, who plays for the QMJHL-championship-finalist Shawinigan Cataractes. Girard very well could be that kind of high-ceiling talent the Leafs would look for when drafting.

QUALITATIVE

Watching Girard play is quite the exciting experience. At least it is for me. The way he protects the puck on zone entries reminds me so much of our own Morgan Rielly. He moves the puck within his reach so skillfully that, despite being small, it’s hard to get the puck off of him. 

Girard would qualify, for me, as the definition of a powerplay quarterback. The way he manipulates Junior-level penalty kill schemes with such ease really displays his skill level. 

His ability to get up and down ice with control in a hurry is really impressive, though it usually manifests on the powerplay. I’m excited to see his development to see if that vision translates to reading NHL-level neutral zone schemes, and whether his transition game can be a significant influence on team possession at the NHL level. I think that would be a hugely positive element to his game to focus on grooming.

The other benefit from his elite-level vision, besides transition, is his ability to pass the puck in the offensive zone. Albeit against Junior-level defensive schemes, his plays on the puck are crisp and accurate in the offensive zone (again, usually manifested on the powerplay).

Here is a quote from Jérôme Bérubé of Hockeyprospect.com:

Toughest to rank and project of any player in the QMJHL. His puck skills and vision are high-end, but his size is an issue. I believe he will find a way to become a PP specialist at some point in the NHL. On skills alone, he’s a top-10 talent in this draft.

What a fantastic summation of Girard, and all the disparity that surrounds him. It’s for this reason that I compared and contrasted him to Logan Stanley in my last post. The two defensemen have wildly varying opinions circulating about them, and both are very intriguing prospects to watch for where they land in the upcoming draft.

QUANTITATIVE

Standing at only 5’9″ and weighing 162 lbs., there’s no question Girard has some size to add. However, it’s the production stats where Girard really takes leaps and bounds above his competitors. I showed a graphic comparing Stanley and Girard last post, let’s check out a comparison (courtesy of Brandon Dennis’ tableau page) with Girard and top-tier defenseman from this class, Olli Juolevi:

Originally looking at the graphic comparing Stanley and Girard, I was concerned with the large component of Girard’s points that coming from the powerplay. However, when you compare with Juolevi, not only does he eclipse him in powerplay points, but also in even strength production. That should be a huge chip on Girard’s shoulder. 

(Before you tell me about how the scoring in the Q is higher, check your facts. Over the last 3 seasons, average GF/GP in the is 3.45 in the OHL, 3.42 in the QMJHL. Basically the same. Thanks to reddit user /u/lmhuge for getting me started with the data.)

One concern I do have for Girard, besides the size, is his SOG totals. There’s been noted concerns that he doesn’t have a quality shot, and the totals reflect that. He was only able to get 87 shots on goal this past season. That’s less than half of the league leader for defensemen, Niklas Brouillard (who the Marlies recently signed to a contract for next season). Obviously, his talents display more as a playmaker, which is fine, but without on-ice SOG/Corsi numbers, it’s hard to tell how much of an effect he’s having in that regard.

SHOULD THE LEAFS BE INTERESTED?

I think the answer should resoundingly be yes. This is a common theme with me, but if you can get a player with that level of production at 30/31, I think you’d be silly to pass it up. When that 30 pick comes around, I’d be very surprised to see Girard still on the board. But, if he’s there, I’d have a hard time swallowing it if the Leafs passed him up.

His future projection seems to line up as a 2nd pairing, 1st powerplay unit, offensive juggernaut. Morgan Rielly v2.0? “You may say I’m a dreamer”, but I don’t think the comparison is as far off as you’d initially think. Only time will tell for certain.

  • Newleafs

    There should be a number of good options to pick up an exciting defense prospect around 30/31. At least one of Girard, Clague, Dineen, or Johansen should fall to Leafs if they decide to go with a defenseman. I would probably want a bit more size but like you wrote, it’s hard to pass on that much skill.

  • FlareKnight

    I can understand the hype, but I do think there should be some more caution there. If we’re talking Hockeyprospect (I bought the guide too) it wasn’t all positive from the scouts there. Some good, some bad.

    The biggest worry is the shot. If at that level he’s already turned into a guy who will pass 90% of the time he gets the puck then it makes him extremely predictable. It’s one thing to have a shot that may not translate, but not to have one at the junior level is iffy.

    I think he should be a consideration. Maybe is too one-dimensional, but he can move the puck really well. Having more pure skill can’t be a bad thing.

    There are a ton of options for 30/31. Girard should be there, though I’m not sure if he’s at the top of the list of candidates.

  • Foximus

    I’ve posted this previously but I think this is exactly the high-end skill the new Leafs regime is drafting. I’d be shocked if they passed on someone like this for their system.

    The big bodies with specific roles to play can typically be picked up cheap as UFA’s or for late draft picks.

    Skill and speed certainly have a place in the current NHL and having a farm system loaded with guys like that can’t hurt.

  • DSP

    This has already been stated but he has giant holes in his game. He is also very predictable. I would pass on the kid as it is doubtful he will ever see an NHL game.

    • Gary Empey

      To be fair when picking at 30/31, most of the prospects will have some holes in their game. Here is where the scouting team must assess which players are most likely to improve with age.

      @Ryan Hobart….. Re- “powerplay quarterback”. How many powerplay quarterbacks does a team really require? For me when looking at the “AfterAuston” group, I would be looking for a player that could excel as a solid 5/6 defenceman, or a solid 3rd/4th line, or penalty kill specialist. Draft for speed in these two spots.

  • Jeremy Ian

    If Babcock has the offense play a more three-zone game, the role of the defense changes in a way that favours speed and puck control.

    That graph is pretty impressive.

    Shayne Gostisbehere might be a good comp for him — small guy (I think he weighed 161 lbs when he was drafted). He was known for his puck control and agility before he worked on his shot. I saw him play the last time the Leafs were in Philadelphia (maybe Lupul’s last goal?), and the guy is amazing to watch.

  • Gary Empey

    A close comparison could be a guy like Ryan Ellis. As much as Ellis is not the anchor of Nashville’s defense and not even top 3 really (Weber, Josi, Ekholm), he is still a very valuable piece on that team because his puck moving abilities allow Nashville defense to have a different look when they need more offense. I have no doubts Hunter will make the right selections with 30 and 31 (or move up or down as he sees fit).

  • Jeremy Ian

    he’s sami vatanen 2.0. who wouldn’t want that on their team? pp beast to play with matthews/nylander/marner/kapanen/maybe stamkos. special teams are very important. we see a lot of teams sink with bad special teams especially in the playoffs. he moves the puck very well, good speed, good vision, good intelligence and probably good possession numbers. he’s excellent 5 on 5 too. if he’s there, STEAL HIM LEAFS.